Cheyenne and I were able to experience a perfect trim together when it was no longer my duty to get it done. She had taken responsibility for her own feet, when I realised I could give it to her, and what had previously been such a trial became easy.


Cheyenne has lived in my herd for two years now, and we have been gradually getting closer in our relationship. She is very friendly, perhaps to an extent some horse guardians would consider too friendly.

Often she will come right into your personal space and want attention. And she is also deeply sensitive to people around her, and if she feels there is any lack of trust, or anxiety about her behaviour, she will respond aggressively.

This aggression only surfaced later on in her life. As a young horse she was given abundant affection, yet she did not know how to yield and give space. It is likely this resistance to yielding complicated things with traditional training methods and she became aggressive in order to defend herself. 

My approach has been to learn how to be vulnerable when I am in her presence. To show her that I am listening to her, and I am there for her. In my mind she is always sweet and affectionate, and that is how I engage with her. Over time she became more relaxed, and then it felt intuitively right to begin showing her how yielding is therapeutic in her relationship with humans.

I had seen how the other horses would insist that she yielded, and likewise she would insist they yielded to her. This was quite an aggressive interaction however, and not appropriate for our relationship! The video below from some months back shows how we worked with the grazing muzzle. This was so I could still be vulnerable, and also ask her to yield. This was a profound connection for us, and we moved into a new place. 

Since that experience I wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed in terms of trimming Cheyenne. First I just asked in the way I do with the other horses, which is at liberty (see video) usually while they are in their barn resting or eating. Cheyenne was absolutely clear she didn’t want anything to do with it! If she didn’t have to be trimmed, why should she choose to be? After that I tried putting the muzzle back on as I had done previously. It just didn’t really feel right however, and she validated that feeling by refusing to balance herself every time I lifted a leg.

Cheyenne trim

We had reached an impasse, so I considered how I felt about it. Perhaps because she is not my horse, I had not been able to disengage from my sense of responsibility about getting her feet done. With my own horses I am able to come to them without an agenda.

As I explored this sense of responsibility, it occurred to me that I could give the responsibility for her feet back to her. It was just a brief idea, let go as soon as it came, into the universal flow, yet a while later things slotted into place.

I had some loose hay, the weather was good, and the herd was relaxed. I asked Cheyenne to come outside and eat the net, and although she started a little tricky with her back feet, with gentle persistence she suddenly just let go and I was even able to do the one hind-foot she has been very sensitive about from the start.

Then I just decided I was going to trust her not to bite me when I asked for her front legs, and her behaviour was utterly perfect! She didn’t even twitch her ears back, she relaxed her leg completely on the stand, and balanced herself beautifully. It felt like a miracle. It was entirely her choice. not only to cooperate, but to help me out.

Cheyenne trim

Thinking about it afterwards, it began to make sense. If she doesn’t feel responsible for her own body, if she has not made a commitment to her own care, then why should she let anyone else fiddle around with her? All she will care about is defending herself. She doesn’t know why it is so important for me to trim her feet. All she could feel was that I was putting pressure on her that she couldn’t understand, and it threatened her.

When she was given back the responsibility for her own body, maybe she could even feel more clearly that her feet did need to be trimmed. At the very least she no longer perceived my offer to help her as a threat. She could sense that it was a genuine offer, not a demand. There was no string attached (because I felt like I knew what she needed). It seems so subtle, but the effect was so profound. Her entire outlook has shifted. She went from being aggressive and refusing to hold herself upright, to utterly peaceful and perfectly balanced. 

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